(Editor's note: Ever hear of Kyle Johnson? Perhaps you have, perhaps you haven't. Contrary to what you may believe, not every NFL prospect is a big-name superstar; Johnson is a draft prospect who hopes to be part of an NFL team. Check out what Johnson is all about as he prepares for the 2002 NFL Draft.)
It took me three months to realize it, but something I heard back then sunk in recently and I learned a valuable lesson from it.
Back in January, I was one of the players at the East-West Shrine game. We were traveling somewhere by bus and the guys on the back of the bus were talking and making jokes. Someone tossed out the question of why we all play the game. More specifically they asked, "Do we all play for the love of the game or for the other things?"
It was a good question. No one asked me outright, and I hadn't thought about the question until recently. When I did, it sort of made me stop and think.
We knew why we all started playing all those years ago, and why we kept playing in high school, but were we still playing for those same reasons? With all the meetings, and the training, lifting all the weights, and the technical aspect of the game did you still play for the right reasons?
Back on the bus, Antwaan Randle El, a quarterback from Indiana, was asked and he answered the question loud and resoundingly clear, while I pondered my thoughts.
"I play for the love," he said.
He played for the love of the game and he couldn't see any other reason why anyone would want to play. Why else would you even desire to play?
Instead of getting caught up in money and fame and all the other things that come with preparing for an NFL career, lately I've been thinking of his words on the back of that bus, and I remember why we started playing this game.
I think back to how we all got so much joy from scoring touchdowns, catching passes and making plays in Pop Warner and Little League. I think about how great it felt to be the player that other players looked to in crunch time; to make a play when everyone out there was just dying to make a play.
I remember the reasons why we brave the elements, the pain, the injuries, the reason why we push our bodies to their limits. I remember that despite the material wealth that it will provide for some of us, that it should never really be viewed as a job. That's why we should continue to play. We should all play for the love of the game.
-- Kyle Johnson